In Hindu mythology, the Great Himalayan Range is the abode of the gods. Nestled in the lap of these mountains, and surrounded by a ring of snow-capped peaks, lies the Kathmandu Valley. Historically, the kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley comprised the political, religious, and cultural entity now known as Nepal. Located between India and the region of Tibet, the valley acts as a crossroads of trans-Himalayan trade, the shared sacred site of various Himalayan religions, and one of the epicenters for much of Himalayan art. This unique position has fostered a tremendous amount of cultural, social, and religious exchange in Nepal, thus establishing a living creative tradition that is one of the single most important influences in Himalayan art history. From the Land of the Gods: Art of the Kathmandu Valley exhibits the finest examples of Nepalese art from the Rubin Museum of Art’s permanent collection, highlighting the variety of forms and subjects, techniques and media that emerged from the valley's creative matrix.

The exhibition also touches on the main religious traditions of the Kathmandu Valley, Hinduism (Shaiva, Vaishnava, and Shakta) and Buddhism, which have been integral in the artistic and culturally rich environment. Spanning more than a thousand years, the artistic legacy of the Kathmandu Valley is celebrated in the objects and ideas presented here.

Malla-Period Art
During the Malla period, which spanned more than five hundred years (1200-1769), trade, agriculture, religion, and culture flourished in the Kathmandu Valley, fostering tremendous growth in the production of sacred art. The Malla rulers were enthusiastic patrons of both Hinduism and Buddhism, contributing to the construction of public buildings, palaces, shrines, temples, and objects of worship. The Newar people—the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley—came to dominate most forms of artistry during this time both within the valley and throughout the greater Himalayas. Newar artists were masters at portraying the spiritual world in their metal casting, woodcarving, clay and stone sculpting, and painting. Highly sought after, they traveled extensively throughout Asia, creating religious art for their neighbors. As a result, the Newar style, characterized by sensuous, youthful bodies, sharp facial features, and elegant ornaments and jewelry, became one of the most influential in Himalayan art.

Inscriptions and Dating
Throughout the artistic history of Nepal, but more frequently in the later period, Nepalese patrons occasionally documented the specific circumstances involved in the creation of sacred religious art. These inscriptions, which included the date of the image’s creation, were usually placed on the front of paintings along with scenes depicting the donors; or around the base of sculptures. Prior to the 16th century, dated works are rarer than in succeeding centuries. Examples of these early dated works are crucial to art historians, as they provide benchmarks for stylistic analysis and comparative dating. Many of the works in this exhibition are inscribed and dated, providing art historians with names, places, dates, and benchmarks for style.



Ritual Aesthetics

Divine Feminine

Shiva and Family

Credits | Exhibitions